July 22, 2013

Literary Hoaxes and Scandals

Well-Known Literary Scandals and Hoaxes
I finished reading James Frey's A Million Little Pieces before it was later revealed that it was a piece of fiction marketed to the reading public as a non-fiction work. I was of course sort of devastated as I was inspired by a lot of the events in the book. It was a story of hope, second chances and redemption. It turned out the author made up a lot of the events that he described and narrated. James Frey is just a speck in the numerous hoaxes and scandals that had rattled the literary world.

There is no end to the discussions about these literary scandals and hoaxes. They make for good and enduring conversation pieces among writers, readers, and enthusiasts of the written word. They may have failed to cause a stir among the general population; but in the literary world, they unleashed waves of tsunami proportions.

In this page, we will take a look into some of the most well-known of these literary hoaxes and scandals. So sit back, put your reading glasses on and enjoy (or be disgusted).

1) Kaavya Viswanathan Plagiarizing Pages from Novels by Megan McCafferty and Other Authors
Kaavya Viswanathan was just 19 when Little Brown published her first novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life which she wrote after graduating from high school. She was then a sophomore at Harvard with a reported $500,000 two-book deal. Opal Mehta, a chick-lit novel was a success. DreamWorks reportedly had plans of making a movie adaptation of it.

However, the Harvard Crimson website later reported that Viswanathan had plagiarized dozens of passages from novels by Megan McCafferty. As a result, her publisher Little Brown recalled all copies of the book from the shelves.

Viswanathan admitted that she had indeed read McCafferty's books. However, she was also quick to claim that she was the victim of a case of photographic memory. It was later discovered that she also lifted from the works of Salman Rushdie, Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot and Tanuja Desai Hidier.

Here's a breakdown of the writers and their works which Viswanathan was accused of plagiarizing:
1. Megan McCafferty: Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings
2. Salman Rushdie: Haroun and the Sea of Stories
3. Sophie Kinsella: Can You Keep a Secret?
4. Meg Cabot: The Princess Diaries
5. Tanuja Desai Hidier: Born Confused

2) James Frey and His A Million Little Pieces (Lies)
Released in 2003, A Million Little Pieces (sold as a memoir), garnered mixed reviews. Some praised it as "the War and Peace of addiction" while some called it "irritating". In 2005, the book climbed bestseller lists when it was featured by Oprah for her Book Club. It stayed at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list for several straight months.

Then The Smoking Gun put out an article after doing a six-week investigation into Frey's book. It turned out that Frey fabricated a lot of the events he presented as facts in his book. Below are some of the lies he presented as "truth" in the book as well as lies during interviews of him about the book:

*He invented a role for himself in a train-automobile collision that took the lives of two high school girls. Frey falsely portrayed himself as a third victim in the crash.

*He claimed that during a three-month stint in jail, he spent his time reading the likes of Don Quixote, The Brothers Karamazov and War and Peace. The truth is the only time he ever spent in jail took less than five hours.

Wikipedia now lists A Million Little Pieces as a semi-fictional novel.

3) Margaret Seltzer a.k.a. Margaret B. Jones and her Love and Consequences: A Memoir of Hope and Survival
Margaret Seltzer posed as Margaret B. Jones and wrote an autobiography about her being half-white, half-Native American and growing up in a black foster home in South Central Los Angeles where she claimed she ran drugs for a gang called The Bloods. Critics acclaimed the memoir. Michiko Kakutani, writing for the New York Times, wrote a positive piece about the book.

All it took was a phone call to prove that the memoir was a hoax. After a photograph of the author appeared in the New York Times, her older sister recognized her and promptly revealed that everything about the book is false. Margaret B. Jones never existed. The book is a work of fiction after all.

When the fakery was exposed, the book crashed really bad. If you are to look into reviews of the book on Amazon right now, majority of the reviewers gave it one star out of five.

4) Laura Victoria Albert a.k.a J.T. LeRoy
American writer Laura Victoria Albert created J.T. (Jeremiah Terminator) LeRoy, one of the longest running literary hoaxes in history. Albert got Savannah Knoop, the half-sister of her then partner Geoffrey Knoop to act as LeRoy during public appearances.

Years later, it was revealed (most famously through an article in the New York Times) that JT LeRoy wasn't real and merely the creation of Albert. Four books were published under the name LeRoy. These were Sarah, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, Harold's End, and Labour.

Albert defended herself from critics by describing LeRoy not as a hoax but rather an avatar. Still, in 2007, she was convicted of fraud.

In 2006, Albert was interviewed by writer Nathaniel Rich and excerpts from the Q & A appeared in an edition of the quarterly literary magazine, The Paris Review. In the interview, Albert explained the issues and circumstances surrounding the existence of her creation JT Leroy. The piece is a must-read if you are interested about the thing.

What's Albert a.k.a LeRoy up to now? Check her out on her official website at lauralabert.org. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

5) The Education of Little Tree by Asa Earl Carter
Yet another instance of fictional work presented to the public as factual memoir. The Education of Little Tree was a huge critical and financial success when it was published. It sold over 9 million copies and it has become a popular entry in school reading lists across America.

Published with the name of the author listed as Forrest Carter, the book is the supposed memoir of an orphan growing up with his Native American (Cherokee) grandparents. It was revealed more than a decade later that the real name of the author is Asa Earl Carter and that the memoir is not a memoir at all.

Making the hoax more interesting are the facts that Asa Carter was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and that he was a speech writer for George Wallace, a segregationist governor in Alabama.

A film adaptation of The Education of Little Tree was released in 1997. It was directed by Richard Friedenberg and it starred Joseph Ashton, James Cromwell, Tantoo Cardinal, Graham Greene, Christopher Heyerdahl, and Mika Boorem.

July 19, 2013

Filipino Inventors and Their Inventions

I decided to write this page after a bad research experience. A nephew of mine who is currently in fourth grade came to me one time and asked if I can help him out with his homework which was supposed to be submitted the next day. The assignment was about famous Filipino inventors. The teacher asked his class to make a list of Pinoy inventors and their contributions to the world. It sounded like an easy enough assignment given the ton of information you can find on the web.

Well, to cut the story, it wasn't easy at all. There wasn't much information in the internet about these innovative Filipinos. Very minimal records exist about their works and contributions.

I spent hours doing research but all I came up with was a very short list of inventors. I said to myself ?There's gotta be more than these. Where are all the names whom we've studied way back in elementary and high school.?

That's why I've decided to compile this list to help other people out there looking for information about them. This list is a work-in-progress so it is not complete. You can help us add more to it by leaving a comment if you believe there is a name you want us to add. Please use the comments section at the end of the article. Thank you.

Angel Alcala: artificial coral reefs:
If you are one who is passionate about environmental conservation, then Alcala is one you should look up to. A biologist and a conservationist, Alcala is known for inventing artificial coral reefs. These artificial coral reefs are now used all over Southeast Asia and around the world especially in fisheries.

Alcala was born and raised in Negros Occidental in a town called Cauayan. His father was a fish farmer and it was from him that the young Alcala developed an interest in marine life and ecology. He studied at the Silliman University in Dumaguete where he graduated magna cum laude. He took up a course in Biology. In 1992, he was given the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service.

Felix Maramba: power generator fueled by coconut oil:
Maramba is a leading expert in the utilization of coconut oil as an alternative fuel. To prove his point, he built a power generator that was ran by coconut oil. He is an advocate of bio fuel. With the world's dwindling and irreplaceable energy sources, Maramba pushed for natural alternatives like methane gas.

Maramba earned his Bachelor's degree in Agriculture at the University of the Philippines. He then pursued a Master's degree in Chemistry at the University of Sydney in Australia where he graduated in 1952. Upon returning, he went to teach in various universities and colleges in the country. He passed away on December 9, 2010 at the age of 85.

Robert Del Rosario: karaoke:
Contrary to popular belief, the now ubiquitous karaoke didn't have its origins in Japan. It was in fact developed by Robert Del Rosario in the Philippines. Del Rosario is one of the most prolific inventors in the country. He has patented over twenty inventions. Of course, his most popular work is the karaoke.

Del Rosario called his invention "Sing along with the system".

It was only when the thing got popular in Japan that the term "karaoke" was adopted for it. Other innovative creations by Del Rosario include the voice color tape, the piano tuner's guide, the Trebel Voice Color Code and the piano keyboard stressing device. As you can notice, most of Del Rosario's works involve music and sounds.
Francisco Quisumbing: Quink ink:
Do you use pens of the Parker brand? Then you should be thankful to Francisco Quisumbing, the chemist who created what is now popularly known as the Quink ink. He developed the quick drying ink for the Parker Pen Company.

Quisumbing once tried to start his own ink company just after the end of World War II. He was however unsuccessful in his endeavor citing political and war reasons. He studied both in the country (UP) and abroad (University of Chicago).

Quisumbing is also known for his extensive research and study of orchids. A well-known work of his is "Medicinal Plants in the Philippines", a book he published in 1951.

Fe Del Mundo: incubator made out of bamboo:
Del Mundo designed an incubator that is made from bamboo materials. She came up with the idea when she learned that so many rural communities in the nation don't have access to an incubator because they can't be reached by electrical power. Her work in pediatrics spanned over 80 decades. She passed away in August of 2011 at the age of 99. She was just a year away from becoming a centenarian.

Del Mundo is the recipient of several awards and citations. These include the National Scientist of the Philippines which then Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos conferred to her in 1980, the Elizabeth Blackwell Award, the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service and the Order of Lakandula which was awarded to her in 2010 by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Benjamin Almeda Sr.: food processing machines:
Benjamin Almeda Sr. is a very prolific inventor that he is often referred to as the Father of Filipino inventors. He is most well-known for the food processing machines that he designed, created and manufactured. These include meat grinders, rice grinders, and coconut graters. Many of these food-processing devices are now used all over the country and across the world.

In 1954, Almeda started his own company to make his creations. He named his company Almeda Cottage Industry which was later changed to Almedah Food Machineries Inc.

Controversial (Questionable) Pinoy Inventors:
Agapito Flores is often credited for inventing the fluorescent lamp and some claim that the term "fluorescent" was derived from his name Flores. However, there are those who contest the claim. The Wikipedia page for the fluorescent lamp doesn't mention Flores' name. It's still unclear what the circumstances are surrounding the claims of Flores' supporters. However, the fact remains that a physicist named Alexandre Becquerel investigated the fluorescence phenomena even before Flores was born.

Pedro Flores (not related to Agapito Flores), is also often credited for inventing the popular toy yo-yo. No, he didn't. The yo-yo dated back to ancient times. The ancient Greeks played with it. However, it was Flores who first mass-produced the thing and set off an international craze for the toy.

July 8, 2013

South Korean Girl Group 2NE1 Releases New Single Called Falling In Love

The immensely popular South Korean girl group 2NE1has finally released a new song/single titled Falling In Love, much to the delight of their millions of fans from around the world. As icing to the cake, the new single also coincided with the release of a spanking and glitzy music video. The music video has been on YouTube for just a day and it already has over one million views. That's testament to the popularity of the pop group. As we write this article, the Falling In Love music video already has 1.5 million views. Amazing huh?

The video opens with the four members of the group hanging out, dancing and singing in a beach to the tune of a catchy beat with the lyrics "You ready. You ready. Are you ready. Touch me over here. Touch me, touch me over there. Touch me over here." The song has tinges of hip-hop, rap, pop, and reggae. The chorus lines are sung in both English and in the South Korean dialect. Some of the lines in the chorus goes "Falling in love, falling in love."
The sets in the music video has gold themes. Cups, cars, gadgets, necklaces, seats, and some statues are coated in gold. Other scenes in the video include some boys playing basketball in the background.

It's a great video featuring the 2NE1 girls in great hairdos and even greater clothes or costumes if you will. They'll probably gather even more fans with their catchy song Falling In Love and its accompanying music video.
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